There is a flurry of activity that happens in downtown Riverhead every Wednesday. Staff and volunteers gather from churches, soup kitchens and food pantries from around the East End area to meet up with the Island Harvest truck, which arrives early morning to hand out equal portions of food donations for their respective locations. RISE Life Services is there. This is the one day that the RISE Food Pantry will open in Riverhead and the staff, comprised of individuals from our program meets that truck in the Main Street parking lot behind Maximus Gym each week. They help other community members, they stock inventory and they head back to prepare for the visitors they will certainly serve that day.
Enthusiastic is an understatement when meeting Jimmy, who is eager to begin the busy morning. Jimmy is in charge of making sure the food areas are clean and sanitary, and serving those members of our local community that need to supplement their food stamps with donations from the Food Pantry in order to avoid hunger. Ray is the driver, who will work with the others each Wednesday morning to meet the Island Harvest truck, stock inventory and hopefully in the future, deliver to the needy and elderly who cannot leave their homes. Scott is the manager, who keeps track of it all, including keeping temperature logs on the food and keeping inventory accurate. Each staff member who works for the Food Pantry receives minimal supervision from JoAnn Vitale, the coordinator. They are independent and handle it all and they are proud of their accomplishments, as well as the paycheck they receive for a job well done each week.
The RISE Main Street Market Food Pantry is open every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is located at 901 East Main Street, Suite 500, Riverhead. Anyone is welcome to come and get food from us. Most of those who do utilize this resource are on food stamps. The community finds out about it through Island Harvest, who lists it on their website and on signage throughout all of the Suffolk County food pantries they serve.
JoAnn Vitale, community engagement specialist, hopes to expand this program in the near future to offer delivery to the needy and elderly. Ray is the first dedicated driver that has worked with RISE and for the food pantry. He could now make this a possibility.
“Many people visit and tell us that they are picking up for others who cannot leave their house,” said JoAnn, “There is a need out there for delivery.”
Additional funding from grants and other sources would also allow growth and expansion of more hours of operation; food availability; and even moving to a more centrally located area would help the community further. “We need to be careful about food intake right now.” Said JoAnn, “We don’t want to take more than we can give in the one day we are open. We are always considerate of avoiding waste.”
Not only are we serving our community with the RISE Main Street Market Food Pantry, but we are providing an avenue for our residents to enhance their community interaction and be a vital part of an important effort.